Vilnius finished up its two-day Conference on NATO’s open door policy. The Conference attendees not only marked the 10th anniversary of the accession of Lithuania and six other Central European countries to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but also discussed the emerging challenges facing the Alliance and its partner countries in the light of Russia’s actions against Ukraine, as MF of Lithuania reports.
Symbolically, the Conference ended with a celebration of the 65th anniversary of NATO’s founding. The participants of discussions underlined that even after 65 years the Alliance remained important and its central role in guaranteeing the Euro-Atlantic security was more relevant than ever. The Vilnius Conference 2014 continues the tradition of a series of international security events, which have taken place since 1997 in the “Spirit of Vilnius” with a vision for creating a single secure Europe.
Among participants were – NATO deputy of Secretary general Alexander Versbow, representatives from Poland, Baltic states, Chris Donelly (former special adviser for Central and Eastren European Affairs of NATO), Minister of the Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevicius, Steven Paifer (former US ambassador for the Ukraine), experts from Lithuania, Georgia, Azerbajdzan etc.
Among other themes, of course, one of the the main topic of conference was Ukraine – it‘s perspectives and cooperation with NATO in the present situation. As well as the reaction of the West to the Russian agression in the region.
Poland and Estonia wants "boots on the ground"
It is reminded, that Sergej Lavrov stressed he was waiting for responses from the leaders of NATO about the actions of the Alliance in the Eastern Europe. Russia's Foreign Minister has responded to NATO representatives hints that discussion of the possibility of deploying permanent military capabilities in the Russia's neighboring states belonging to the Alliance is going on. For example, to establish a permanent military base, so called "boots on the ground".
During the meeting in Brussels, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of NATO did not take any specific decision on the permanent capacity development in Eastern Europe, but on the eve of the event Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski considered that he would be delighted if the states would create two large brigades - about 10,000 troops.
Estonian Ambassador to NATO Lauris Lepiku also said that the Baltic states would like to see the Alliance's presence in "boots on the ground" form.
However, the international media writes that Sikorski did not offer to deploy that large numbers of troops to the NATO ministers on Tuesday (April, 2). However, the Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans said that the Alliance in general does not have the capacity to deploy a permanent wall near Russia: "No, we do not need NATO troops on the border with Russia“.
As it is known, in order to avoid confrontation with Moscow during the NATO expansion, the Alliance has promised, that permanent contingents of the allies would not be held in the States which are bordering with Russia.
While visiting Vilnius, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said that it is too early to talk of a permanent capacity in Eastern Europe, but he did not rule out the possibility that in the long term there may be changes of deployment of forces due to exercise purposes.
“Because of the context of the Ukrainian crisis, as you know, we have taken all urgent steps to increase the number of aircraft including air policing mission. By making these steps we want to assure our allies and demonstrate to them that our deterrence cannot be questioned in any way. In a longer term, there may be some changes in exercise capacity deployment purposes. Many options can be considered, so at this point to talk about specific proposals, including the proposal of the Polish minister, is too early,”- said the Deputy Secretary-General.
Why Lithuania did not support the Poland and Estonia?
Lithuanian Foreign Minister L. Linkevičius, when he was asked why Lithuania did not show public support to Sikorski’s initiative to deploy a permanent capacity in Eastern Europe, said that it’s up to military to decide, therefore political statements do not make sense.
"We are doing everything in a solid, practical and very, very focused way. By the way , I had a meeting with the chief commander of NATO military forces in Europe Breedlove, he presented options, which are very positive and reasonable. They need more of a political consensus, but it will be found. Declarations will not change anything, but I have no doubt about the very fact that there are specific intentions in the air, terrestrial and navy, to provide visible security guarantees. And what is happening in Siauliai, is an evidence for this. We’re talking about it, this is all I can tell you. And I see no point in declarations. Results will appear, and they're now seen at least in Lithuania,” - said the Minister.
L. Linkevičius says that the military leadership of NATO is basing its plans on intelligence and analysis.
"They are taking a rational look at the situation. And then, when options are presented, approval from politicians is received, they execute. Something is already taking place - this is a reinforcement of existing instruments. We have an example - air police. It has changed not only quantitatively but also qualitatively, because it's not just 10 jet fighters instead of 4, but also the possibility of a mission carried out continuously. Therefore Lithuanian military base de facto is Nato base today", - said the Minister.
When he was asked whether Lithuania is as secure as the old members of NATO are , Mr. Linkevičius agreed with that assessment . He even recalled the NATO Secretary General correction, when reporters asked whether the establishment of a permanent air police mission in the Baltic air space would make it safe. Then, the Secretary-General stated that common NATO area exists with equal security standards.
"And today we have seen in Siauliai: they have to be in the air within 15 minutes after receiving a command and to be ready to execute the mission. They did it much faster, by the way. The same standards are valid, no matter where you are - in Lithuania, or Portugal, or anywhere else”,- said the Minister.
Answering the question, why the number of troops in the old NATO countries in Europe and the whole infrastructure is so different from the East European members of the Alliance, L. Linkevičius said that it happened naturally.
"Before we joined the NATO Alliance, the entire infrastructure was within old NATO States: static infrastructure, bases, air bases and other things. Perhaps the only newer infrastructures in NATO States are the training center of Bydgoszcz in Poland and the Air Force base in the Baltic countries," - said L. Linkevičius .
Just to remind: after Russia occupied and annexed the Crimea and located about 40,000 troops on the Eastern borders of Ukraine, NATO foreign ministers on April 2nd announced about stopping of civil and military cooperation with Russia, but leaving the channels of communication open on the level of ambassadors or higher.
NATO also declared political and consultative assistance to Ukraine, seeking modernization and increased efficiency for the military forces. Ukraine's partnership with the Alliance was called a Distinctive Partnership.
NATO's chief military commander in Europe Ph. Breedlove warned that Russian forces by the border of Ukraine are huge and very ready. He also added that the Kremlin could squeeze forces in Transnistria, located next to Moldova, area controlled by Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Translation from the Lithuanian news portal DELFI